Evo Morales, Camacho and the Coup in Bolivia
Understanding the coup against Evo Morales
Saturday, after the military and the chief of police defected, Evo Morales resigned from his presidency. Shortly, afterwards Luis Fernando Camacho stormed the presidential palace while his gangs ransacked the palace. He laid down the old Bolivian flag and the bible and remarked, "the bible returns to the presidential palace. The Pachamama (Mother-Earth in Quechua) will never be back to the government. Bolivia belongs to Jesus Christ", which is of course an insult against the indigenous groups who form the plurinational of Bolivia.
Until yesterday, I had never heard of this man who has now emerged as the leader of the opposition. Not entirely unlike Venezuela’s Juan Guaido, he has been waiting in the shadows until the US Government anointed him president.
Bolivia has also been subject to US military intervention and clandestine and not-so-clandestine coups. In one very brazen memo the US embassy said it sent $410,000 in “coup money,” leading to a nearly 10 year long military dictatorship with Hugo Banzer. Along with Pinochet, Hugo Banzer, helped orchestrate an intercontinental death squad called “Operation Condor.” Looking at the actions of Camacho and his violent Squad, one can’t help but wonder if the spirit of Operation Condor is back.
According to his twitter profile, he is a 40 year lawyer from Santa Cruz, Bolivia. He is married and has three children. He was born and raised in Santa Cruz, one of the richest and most powerful zones in the country. Majority of its population identify as white and are descendants of Europeans. He studied law at a private university in Bolivia and then went to Barcelona, Spain to get an MBA.
To understand this counter-revolutionary movement, we need to understand the city of Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz was founded in 1581 as a haven for European speculators, slave traders and exploiters. Surprisingly, very little has changed since then. Today, it is led by elite, white, plantation owners, businessmen and investors. In the 1940s, Santa Cruz was a haven for Nazis trying to escape justice. Many of them were on the US payroll, including Klaus Barbie, who was known as the Butcher of Lyon. As long as they let US companies reap the profits from extraction, these lucky few from Santa Cruz were able to partake in their own rent-seeking and profiting measures. Until 2005, these business interests ran the country with impunity. While Santa Cruz prospered, the rest of Bolivia struggled. In 1996, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lorada,in conjunction with these business elites, even agreed to privatize water. The peasants tried to collect rainwater, but it looked like the President had also given away the rainwater to Bechtel.
Amidst the water privatization crisis, Evo Morales, was elected president in a majority indigenous country. To the people of Santa Cruz, there is a loss of status where they no longer had the inner ear of the leader. There is an element of racism, where they cannot fathom a country led by an Aymara. Perhaps the most important problem is the fact that Evo Morales enacted many reforms that stopped them from profiting by denying others the basics.
In this environment, we see the rise of Luis Fernando Camacho. His political activities began at age 23 when he joined the Unión Juvenil Cruceñista. They have been linked to many acts of terrorism, intimidation and abuse. The International Federation for Human Rights, refers to them as a paramilitary extremist organization.
Even the US government, who frequently plotted with the UJC, have recognized that these members are racist who seek to kill satanic Indians. According to a 2007 interview with a UJC member who referred to himself as “Leon 88”, an obvious allusion to Adolf Hitler, he said, “We’ve had good and bad presidents at the UJC, but all contributed to creating a cross-country identity and taught us to love our race, such as Luis Fernando Camacho, Juan Ramon Banegas,” Leon 88 further elaborated, “I cannot say who gave them to us, but we always had and have available lacquers, bats, sticks, shields, mittens, iron sabers and even tear gas to take care of our city”
According to Journalist Benjamin Dangl, who spent some time in Santa Cruz in 2007 “If PODEMOS and the Comité Cívico Pro-Santa Cruz are the mouths and faces of the Santa Cruz business elite and autonomy movement, the youth organization, Unión Juvenil Crucenista, is the group’s brass knuckles. Whereas PODEMOS and the Comité go after the left in rhetoric and economic policies, the Unión Juvenile has been known to beat and whip campesinos marching for gas nationalization, throw rocks at students organizing against autonomy, toss molotov cocktails at the state television station, and brutally assault members of the landless movement struggling against land monopolies.”
Despite being very violent and very racist, the UJC, Podemos and the Santa Cruz Business Association seem to enjoy regular access, visitation and consultations from the US Embassy Staff. As early as one month after President Evo Morales’ inauguration, the staff at the US embassy were having meetings with the Business Association of Santa Cruz. One such individual who enjoyed multiple meetings with the US government is Branko Marinkovic. According to the global intelligence Stratfor files, a multi-millionaire, whose family seem to own large farm lands and also an oil business, had was unhappy with Evo Morales program for economic justice.
In 2009, the Bolivian police uncovered a potential assassination plot by the UJC. They raided some public grounds in Santa Cruz and they found:
found a cache of weapons and ammunition hidden in the stand of telephone cooperative COTAS, one of the hallmark institutions of Santa Cruz. Press reported that the BNP confiscated a shotgun, five rifles, a pistol, two bags of C-4 explosives, a machine gun, and a molotov cocktail.
Later, the Bolivian police were also able to tie Branko Marinkovic to the terrorist plot, but he conveniently escaped to the US and is now living in Brazil under the protection of Bolsonaro.
During this entire phase, Luis Fernando Camacho was in charge of the UJC, and working closely with the financier Branko Marinkovic.
In 2015, after aging out of the paramilitary organization UJC, Camacho joined the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz, which is more acceptable in polite society as second vice-president, later became the vice-president and now he is the president (of the Santa Cruz Civic Committee).
Bolivia is one of the few countries in South America where the indigenous population make up the majority. Luis Fernando Camacho’s bible-clutching puritanism would not sell well in front of the majority of the country. During the election, Carlos Mesa took center stage for his less offensive public persona, while espousing the same corporatist views as Luis Fernando Camacho.
Luis Fernando Camacho’s family, with the blessing of the neoliberal government, formed a monopoly for the supply of natural gas within the country. According to Primera Linea, Camacho’s father was the owner of Sergas, which was a monopoly that installed gas services in the homes of people. However, their family business was rendered obsolete after President Morales nationalized the hydrocarbons. Bolivians get natural gas installations for free. In addition to these millions from profit, Luis Fernando Camacho seems to have at least two shell companies.
While Carlos Mesa was a good vehicle for the wealthy to push for an electoral agenda, he does not have the expertise in spreading terrorism and reigning chaos like Luis Fernando Camacho. As soon as the election victory was over, Camacho stepped forward to take center stage, mobilizing his well-stocked gang of saboteurs.
So far, they have been involved in acts of destroying houses of indigenous people,
Now, it seems like the death squads are back. The police, military and paramilitary gangs have been targeting indigenous people.
The way the American media has been sanitizing the obvious fascist, evangelical counter-revolution has been revolting. Meanwhile, indigenous voices are silenced.
In case, we forget, Evo Morales won his election by 10 points!
Note: the Mark Weisbrot interview was done before Evo Morales was ousted in the coup.